These are the good old days

These are the good old days
By Peter Mosiondz, Jr.

We often hear from collectors who have picked up a dealer’s price list or auction realization from decades ago. They typically lament the fact that stamps were sold at such seemingly low prices back then. The key word is seemingly.

We recall when we first hung out our business shingle about forty years ago. We were struggling then to get our small part-time approval service off the ground. For those who may have an interest in our fledgling venture, we aptly named our service Lamos Stamps. The “Lam” being the first three letters of our mother’s maiden name, while the “mos” belonged to our father.

One of our early customers bought the entire selection that was sent and, along with his remittance, came a note asking us to obtain a nice, sound used Scott United States No. 1. At the time nice copies ranged in price from $40 to $50, depending on the margins.

We packed up a few examples and sent them on approval. The best of the three was chosen at $50.

We recall that, at the time, the price of gasoline was in the area of fifty cents a gallon. Candy bars and daily newspapers were priced at a nickel. A dinner coupled with a show at one of our local supper clubs could be had for $15 a person. 

Let's fast forward forty years and check on what inflation has done to some of these items. We recently sold a nice No. 1 for $350. Not a four wide margined copy in very fine but a nice and sound stamp. It probably would be the mate of the one sold all those years ago. That nickel candy bar had become a fiftycent bar and, in the process, had shrunk a bit in size. Our daily newspaper is now the same half-dollar.


There is an interesting web site at www.westegg.com/inflation. We entered $50 as the amount of money and selected 1968 as the year of origin. Asking the calculator to translate into 2006 dollars (2007 was unavailable at the time) we found that what our friend spent in 1968 equates to $291.68 in 2006 spending power. We like that term “spending power” for it is easier for us to put things into proper perspective. Comparing this spending power, we see that our friend of forty years ago actually did fairly well. The stamp appreciated 20 percent during that period. An investment in stocks or mutual funds would have done better, possibly. However, the pleasures of stamp collecting transcend any kind of investment. Selectively choosing scarce and desirable stamps in really fine condition offers the collector not only the pride of ownership for many years but the possibility of earning a profit as well. He enjoys the best of both worlds.

So, before one looks at a seemingly small price tag of years gone by, one needs to take into consideration the rate of inflation and today’s spending power. One other point we would like to make is that of all of the positive things that have transpired in the hobby in recent years that were not even thought about decades ago. First, our Scott Catalogue has been greatly improved. The content has been enhanced and we enjoy full color. Not to mention that the editor and consultants have worked diligently to make this a more precise guide to current market values. In addition we
have the semi-annual Valuing Supplements which give us a good guide to retail prices in all of the accepted grades.

The independent grading of stamps will help to restore a degree of confidence to stamp buyers, especially those who chase our early issues where prices can jump considerably between one grade and the next. Hopefully some of the fast-buck boys who notoriously over-grade will be chased out as well.

We have witnessed the advent of color in our society publications. We have this great publication which you now hold in your hands. And think about the Internet. It was not even thought about when we first entered the ranks. There are numerous other positives today, including the wealth of reference books that have come upon the philatelic scene. We are much better off that we ever were and the road only goes uphill from here.

These are the good old days.